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Filtering by Tag: Robin Williams

Depression: The Autoimmune Disease Of the Mind

Jill Stoddard

Written by Marnie at

Depression: The Autoimmune Disease Of the Mind

I’ve seen so many great tributes to Robin Williams in the past 24 hours. I hope he knows how much he affected others in a positive way. That, despite his inner torment, the fact that he made people laugh was able to penetrate the immense sadness he must have felt and give him some sort of peace … even if only for a little while. In fact, peace is something those of us with depression rarely feel.

I hate the word “depression”.  Frankly, it’s depressing. And I hate the commercials about it. You know those Cymbalta commercials? Depression hurts; Cymbalta can help. They show these scenarios of people having trouble getting out of bed, or not even wanting to play ball with their dogs. The truth is, sometimes depression probably does look a lot like that. But sometimes it looks like Robin Williams. Sometimes it looks like comedy, as that is one of the many coping mechanisms people with depression use. Sadly, with people like Robin, it masks something much deeper and darker. Sometimes it looks like a busy schedule. Sometimes it looks like forgetfulness. Sometimes it looks like the person standing up on the podium, accepting an award. As Glennon Melton from Momastery said in a recent post, “People who need help sometimes look a lot like people who don’t need help.”

A friend of mine recently broke my heart with a Facebook status update that said something about how she has an autoimmune disease and that, while she might look happy and healthy on the outside, the pain can be unbearable. It was such a simple statement and yet really had an impact on me, as my mother has had chronic pain her whole life but, to the outside world, she looks fine. In fact, she’s gotten dirty looks and even comments from people for using her Handicapped placard.

Depression is the same way. It’s an autoimmune disease of the mind. For all intents and purposes, many of us who have it look fine on the outside. We might even be somewhat, if not very, blessed by our life circumstances. Abby Heugel put it perfectly on her recent Scary Mommy post, saying, “These are the times that I should reach out, but the thing about depression is that it comes with the sense that you shouldn’t have it to begin with, that it’s a bunch of self-indulgent navel gazing and not an actual illness like those that everyone can see looking in.”

Despite everything good in our lives, the negative thoughts persist in our minds and hearts. Its attack on ourselves feels silly, embarrassing, ridiculous, hateful, awful, confusing, shameful, and a whole bunch of other emotions. When I’m tired, it attacks the most, sensing the weakness within.

Physically, I’d consider myself one tough mother f*cker. In fact, when I was little, I had an unusually high pain tolerance. I went to bed once on a broken wrist that my parents didn’t even know about until they saw me the next morning with an arm that had swollen to twice its size. I once let a man stand on my fingers at a baseball game until they were completely flattened because I didn’t want to say anything. I sprained my ankle a week before my first marathon but ran it anyway, having to stop and get it taped about three times. And yet the feelings of melancholy can crush me like I’m a cancer-ridden 100-year-old.

I hate saying but the truth is I suffer from depression. Some days are great and others are horrible but, you know what, that’s life. I have to learn to accept myself the way I am and not be afraid to talk to others about it. And if you need someone to listen, I’m your gal. In the meantime, when you’re out and about doing your daily deeds, remember that things are not always as they seem. Be kind. Be gentle. Be aware that others might be suffering beyond belief despite that fancy, new car, perfect hair, or insanely clean house. Give meaningful hugs and warm smiles. You never know what those could do for someone who is feeling at the end of his rope.

RIP, Robin Williams. You were loved.